In early November Scottish Ensemble will perform Anna Meredith’s Tull and Jonny Greenwood’s Proven Lands in Aberdeen and Glasgow. Both works for strings appear as part of the high energy, theatrical in Sync programme designed to introduce new audiences to classical music through movement and storytelling, which will also appear at Kings Place in London on 14 January.
Tull was premiered by Scottish Ensemble in 2014. The 3-minute piece is scored for 12 divided strings and presents a variation on the traditional Scots’ tune Tullochgorum. Meredith’s realisation of the is “fuzzy but energetic”. A pulsing figure drives the piece forward, with the ‘fuzziness’ coming from a constantly shifting timbral palette, with Meredith telling players varying the position of the bow – sometimes close to the fingerboard, sometimes on the bridge, and sometimes in its ordinary position; a slippery rendition of the tune runs alongside the snapping accompaniment.
Proven Lands (2005/2007/arr. 2012) is a 2-minute excerpt for strings from Greenwood’s music for There Will be Blood. The piece showcases percussive string writing: players use plectrums for pizzicato and raw, pitchless strumming; double bass players slap their instruments and pluck swooping glissandi intended to sound like a loose-skinned bass drum.
It was originally part of Greenwood’s Penderecki-inspired string orchestra work Popcorn Superhet Receiver (2005). This was then reworked into music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-winning film from which he has subsequently created Suites for string quartet (arr. 2018) and string orchestra (arr. 2012). The version for string orchestra been recorded by André de Ridder and the Copenhagen Philharmonic in 2014 and by Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra live in concert in 2019; in May 2023 it toured with Clark Rundell and the Netherlands Philharmonic, including a performance at the Concertgebouw.